United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment
Press Release: First report by High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment outlines drivers to advance gender equality
Date: 21 February 2017
New Delhi—The first report of the United Nations High-Level Panel for Women’s Economic Empowerment draws attention to challenges faced by the most marginalized women and proposes solutions to address them based on global good practice and consultations.
The report, which was presented to the UN Secretary-General in September 2016, was released in New Delhi today by Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry; Renana Jhabvala, founder of the Self-Employed Women’s Association, (SEWA) and member of the High-Level Panel; Sir Dominic Asquith, British High Commissioner to India; and Dr. Rebecca Reichmann Tavares, Representative, UN Women.
“The HLP report holds special relevance for India, where women’s labour force participation rate has declined to 22 percent, and where 93 percent of women’s work is informal and unprotected,” said Dr. Tavares in her welcome address.
“Governments, private sector businesses and civil society have been demonstrating leadership and initiative to accelerate the agenda of women’s economic empowerment. They understand that it is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do.”
Ms. Jhabvala called for the recognition of women’s contribution to the economy and strengthening their enterprises. “Let us hear the voices of women workers and producers,” she added. Ms. Jhabvala pointed to the seven drivers of women’s economic empowerment discussed in the report, which include:
- Strengthening visibility, collective voice and representation
- Improving public sector practices in employment and procurement
- Changing corporate culture and practice
- Building assets – digital, financial and property
- Recognising, reducing and redistributing unpaid work and care
- Ensuring legal protections and reforming discriminatory laws and regulations
- Tackling adverse norms and promoting positive role models
In her keynote address, Ms. Sitharaman said that the Indian government’s efforts were in line with the seven drivers in the report, and committed to engaging more deeply with all stakeholders on three of them in the Indian context – strengthening collective voice, building assets and ensuring legal protection. Women’s economic empowerment was also defined by their status within society, she observed, adding that in that context “schemes such as Beti Bachai Beti Padhao have had a significant impact in states like Haryana. Tamil Nadu’s cradle scheme is another example of proactive steps on gender equality”.
Ms. Sitharaman also referred to the Government of India’s MUDRA scheme which supports micro and small enterprises, and direct benefit transfers under the Jan Dhan Yojana – all of which also seek to empower women. The government was committed to supporting Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe women under the ‘Start Up India Stand Up India’ initiative, Ms. Sitharaman added.
Sir Dominic Asquith, British High Commissioner to India said the United Kingdom was proud to have partnered with the High Level Panel. “The UK strongly believes in accelerating participation of women in economic activities which will lead to a more equitable and prosperous society,” he added. “Prime Minister Modi rightly refers to the UK-India relationship as a ‘Living Bridge’ and we believe that education, skills, research and entrepreneurship, all play an integral key role in deepening that relationship. Our initiatives – whether scholarship programmes or research programmes – encourage women to come forward to avail the best of what the UK has to offer. British companies are also at the forefront of mainstreaming women in their workforce and skill development. For instance, JCB, the iconic earth moving equipment maker, has encouraged women to take up jobs as welders - a job usually associated with men.”
The launch of the report was followed by a discussion on strengthening good practices on women’s economic empowerment. The panelists included Rashmi Saxena Sahni, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, representatives from SEWA, Fab India, H&M India, and Dr. Firoza Mehrotra from HomeNet South Asia, a network of home-based workers.
Among the panelists was Sakhiben, an artisan from SEWA's Trade Facilitation Centre. "I grew up in a drought prone area in Gujarat,” she said. “I learnt embroidery from my mother when I was 10 years old, but did not know its value until SEWA helped me sharpen my skills and access markets.”
“My mother had been a SEWA member for 25 years, so I am the next generation,” Sakhiben said. “Thanks to the support and income, I was able to pursue my studies, and graduated with an MA degree followed by a Teacher's Certificate. My story also motivated 200 girls in my village to complete their education."
About the UNHLP:
The United Nations High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment was established in 2016 by then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to recognise that gender equality and women’s economic empowerment are imperative in achieving sustainable and inclusive growth as envisioned by the Sustainable Development Agenda. The HLP’s membership comprises of powerful and influential leaders in business, government and civil society. They are committed to developing actionable recommendations to close gender gaps and economically empower women.
The HLP members include the CEO of IKEA Switzerland, the President of Costa Rica, leaders of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank Group, UN Women, eminent gender equality champions, economics experts, academics, trade union leaders, and business and government representatives from all over the world.
The Panel Secretariat is hosted by UN Women, and backed by the Government of the United Kingdom and the World Bank Group.
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